Meera – The Belief
Directed by Rajat Sachdeva | Review by Prarthana Mitra
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]eera – The Belief, directed by Rajat Sachdeva and presented by the Dubai Film Club, is a smart and simple short which allows a glimpse into the life of a homemaker in an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) family.
Portrayed by Poonam Asthana, Meera is a pious woman in her forties who executes her duties as a wife and mother perfunctorily. But she also harbors acute paranoia that is atypical of all diaspora — the fear of the unknown that grasps men and especially women who have moved to a different country after marriage and are left to their own devices to configure their new lives.
After settling with her family in Dubai, Meera’s situation is much the same; while her husband Abhi and daughter Riya are immersed in their personal lives with worlds that exist beyond the house, Meera herself has little to keep her going, except for her role as a matriarch. And her faith.
Alienated by cultural and linguistic barriers and also by domestic gender roles, Meera’s constant fear of being left alone in the household is fed by her diminishing faith in God, but it is also her piety that keeps that fear from consuming her entirely. So she pours all her energy into housework and prayers, earnestly believing what her husband perhaps meant only as a joke, “Premium of an insurance and faith in God never go to waste.”
The action of the film takes place over the course of a day. Abhi, played by JP Thakazhy, and Rhea (Arshia Nair) both get ready to catch a flight and the school bus, respectively. Meera does not attempt to mask her disapproval, especially of Abhi’s business trip which would mean she has to spend the night alone with her teenage daughter. But her daughter barely makes it past the bus stop and returns home with a bruised shin. The neighbor’s house is ransacked, as we learn later.
A series of happenstances later, when Abhi returns the following morning, Meera’s faith is renewed. She realizes the power of faith in God’s mysterious ways and his miracles when she learns how narrowly she and her family averted disaster. As it turns out, a gust of wind had fortunately closed the front door which had been left ajar, while Riya’s school bus – the one she missed – had met with a terrible accident the previous day.
This ultimate impact of this heightened drama was achieved with several cinematic tricks and techniques — the voyeuristic tinted point of view shots to depict the presence of the paranoia, background score and jump cuts that underscore how Meera is affected by the uncanny happenings, and a terrific screenplay that is terse yet compassionate. Production design and cinematography seem keyed into the narrative, although camera work is significantly better in a couple of outdoor scenes, with magnificent silhouettes of the Burj.
As a film titled after one of the most revered female saints of India, Meera –The Belief is a compact exploration of the woman’s position in an Indian family, where devotion plays a huge role. Using this as a moral pivot, Sachdeva spins an emotional rollercoaster that hasn’t quite found its perfect sheen but hits its intended mark nonetheless.
Prarthana is presently in between odd jobs and obtaining her master’s degree in literature. She loves modern poetry and meditative cinema. Based out of Calcutta, Prarthana observes people, football, films and enjoys writing about all three. Of late, she relates to Frank Ocean’s music. Her writing experience consists of writing for various sites such as Try Cinema, The Indian Economist, Doing The Rondo, Saintbrush and various academic journals.